Every event is unique. And it all starts with the venue.

Keeping costs in check is vital, but so is the overall experience for your event attendees. That’s where negotiation comes in. And if you’re good enough, you just might be able to create an extravagant event feel even on a tight budget.

As with any negotiation, there is some give and take. You need something. The venue needs something. How well you feel about the final contract can depend on how well you can negotiate the costs and amenities.

To that end, here are some thoughts on negotiating a venue contract…

  1. Request a proposal without giving your budget.

This can seem like Negotiation 101, but it’s so easy to be talked into giving away how much you have to spend. You want to keep (or start) a good relationship. That doesn’t mean that you need to give them all the information ahead of time. It’s all too easy for them to exploit that information and return with a proposal that meets your budget allotment.

Most hotel venues, for instance, have minimum requirements for room pick-up and food and beverage costs. Once you fulfill those, the meeting space may be complementary. Consider whether or not negotiating those minimums will work to your advantage.

  1. Stay flexible.

If your event has flexible dates, that can help. Hotels and other venues have certain days of the week or times of year that they find harder to fill. Consider moving your event to a date that helps the venue fill the space during their slow time. They are much more likely to throw in a few more incentives to get you to book their spot!

  1. Don’t be bullied by high-pressure sales tactics.

The space has gotten back to you with their numbers and dates of availability, but want you to know there are others looking at those times as well. The only person who knows if that’s really true is the person trying to sell you on their space. Or did they tell you that they’re a 5-star hotel and they couldn’t possibly go lower?

There are numerous ways salespeople will try to get you to commit to their price. Don’t fall for it! Instead, remember what your goal is, and continue the conversation without commitment until you’ve reached a mutually beneficial agreement.

Remember, any requests you have must be reasonable and considerate of their position. But that doesn’t mean they get to dictate everything. If you go on a tour, give it a few days to sleep on it. Only sign a contract when it feels right and it all lines up with your budget and goals.

  1. Shop around.

May be you believe there’s only one “perfect” venue for the event. At least, the way you picture it in your head. Don’t stop at getting that one place to bid. Shop around!

When you do some shopping, you may discover that the venue you’d prefer is overpriced for the area or time of year. Or you might find another venue that works more perfectly than the one you originally decided on.

You also may find that knowledge of pricing at several venues can help you negotiate the right price with your preferred space. Having concrete pricing and explaining that you have options, but would prefer their space, can help you possibly achieve that once unreachable number. Having a good relationship with event spaces can really help you achieve this outcome, but even without that it’s possible. Just do your homework and be confident and professional in your discussions.

  1. Don’t forget to hop online and read the venue reviews.

Sites like tripadvisor.com and travbuddy.com allow real people to post reviews. They are some of the most powerful tools you can use when negotiating. Pay close attention to the negative reviews. Is there a real issue with the venue, or did that person just have a chip on their shoulder?

And remember, things happen. (As event planners, we know this all too well!) Bringing up these negative reviews when talking to your salesperson can help you get a better picture of what goes on there.

Bottom line? Don’t feel persuaded by high-pressure sales tactics or negative reviews online. Check it out for yourself. See if it feels right to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. And keep things professional, mindful that the venue has goals to reach as well. And who knows? Maybe the next event you plan would be perfect for that venue. Then you’d already be ahead of the game!

At the end of the day, if you don’t have the relationships, skills or time to properly negotiate, it could cost you a fortune. Contact Plan Ahead Events to see how we save clients money every day — even when you include our fees. We’re always here to help.

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